Confession 6: Keeping the Faith

Faith can be a fickle thing. Easy in good times, more difficult in bad. Sometimes, looking around at the world we’ve created, I feel the fickleness of faith. Sports Illustrated has a weekly feature in their magazine entitled “Signs of the Apocalypse”. This past week’s sign of the apocalypse was that a man who owned a strip club in Wisconsin was offering a lifetime membership to his club in exchange for Superbowl tickets. I think I saw another sign of the apocalypse on the Today show this morning when they featured a segment entitled, “Sexpressos”, showcasing drive-thru coffee places in Washington state which are more known for their eye-popping servers rather than eye-opening coffee. My husband stated that he felt dumber for having watched that segment, but I felt more disappointed than anything else. Why does getting coffee now have to be a sexual event? It’s not that I truly believe the apocalypse is near. I’m not sure I even believe in the apocalypse. I just find it difficult at times to keep my faith in a good, just, and merciful God in the midst of the chaos that surrounds us. Be it the absurdity of our society, showcased so perfectly in this year’s Superbowl commercials, or the greater tragedies of war, oppression and poverty which overwhelm so many in our world. Where is God to be found? It’s not a crisis of faith, per se, just the longing for a little light to break into a darkness which seems to abound.

It’s kind of like the Christmas hymn, “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.” Over the past few years, this hymn has become one of my favorites. The tune invokes the sadness and urgency of people living in despair, yet the words move the listener to hope and to rejoice. Like the ancient Israelites, we live in a world that is captive and exiled. There are those who are held captive by violence; those who live in war-torn lands, crime-ridden neighborhoods, or are victims of abuse and neglect. There are those who are held captive by poverty; those who are homeless, those who hunger, those who always go without. Then, there are those who are held captive by disease, both physical, mental, and emotional. In one way or another, we are all held captive in this world, mourning in lonely exile. Yet, as people of faith, we are called to rejoice. Emmanuel shall come…

As a Christian, I believe in this hope. Moreover, I believe that Emmanuel did come, that Jesus is indeed the Messiah and that the Spirit of God is with us still. It just gets so hard to see at times. Part of my problem is that I look for the goodness of man, rather than the goodness of God. I want to believe, like Anne Frank said, that “in spite of everything, people are really good at heart.” Yet, if that were the case, why would God have to reconcile himself to humanity? Why would Jesus have had to die? What would be the point of the resurrection? Why would people still be suffering? People cannot be inherently good, which is why we must be redeemed. I cannot reconcile the actions of man to the actions of the God in which I believe. This, I suppose, is where faith comes in. I have to trust that God is there in the midst of the darkness.

Every night, before I put my son down to sleep, I say a little prayer over him, and ask God to keep watch over him through the night. I am, in a sense, handing him over to God each night for safekeeping. Some nights, this is harder than others. Last night was one of those nights. Our son had a coughing fit and, at one point, gave a great gasp. My husband, who had been sleeping, sat bolt upright and asked if our son was o.k. The coughing subsided and I laid him back down to sleep, but I couldn’t let him go. I ended up at the foot of the bed, my ear pressed close to his playpen, listening to him breathe. After about ten minutes of this, I felt God pulling me away. I remembered the prayer I had prayed when I first put my son to sleep, and realized that in order to have faith in God, I first had to trust God. And to trust, I had to let go of my own fears and anxiety. God is acting in our world and in my life, I just get too caught up in the bad to see the good. But God’s goodness is there, all around. It’s in the healing that comes to friends who have been ill. It’s in the warmth of time spent with family and friends. It’s in the smiling faces of the students I work with. It’s in the warm laughter of my son. It’s in the warm embrace of my husband.

Yes, faith can be a fickle thing. Yet, it is only when we have faith that we can see the light in the darkness. We can see God working in the world, in spite of the world. We can see God working in our lives, in spite of ourselves.

Blessings and Peace,